After the arrests of human rights activists and lawyers in connection with Bhima-Koregaon Violence and allegedly for possessing Maoist connections, 37 civil rights organisations came together on Wednesday to condemn these arrests pressing their demands to release those arrested in this case under Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA).
While addressing the media at Mumbai Press Club, the panel asserted on their demand to investigate the police officers and top authorities indulged in carrying out these “illegal arrests”. The panel further added that rather than focusing on issues like education, health, employment, and women safety, the government is taking action against those who are critical of it.
After Modi came into power, there have been more cases of sexual assault on women in this country,” said BEBAAK Collective member.
Former Bombay High Court Judge and Elgar Parishad convener, Justice B.G. Kolse Patil condemning the arrests said that the recent arrests and raids are being carried out to sideline the matter of Sanatan Sanstha’s involvement in the Nalasopara Explosive Case and Dabholkar Murder Case.
Earlier on August 28, Pune Police carried out multiple raids on the residence of lawyers and human right activists arresting Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, and Varavara Rao.
Blaming the government for their “double standards”, Susan Abraham, Vernon Gonsalves’ wife and a lawyer, said that the prime accused in Bhima-Koregaon Violence – Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote – were not charged with laws like UAPA but others arrested have been.
Sambhaji Bhide has not even been arrested. Ekbote, on the record, has said that if you are arresting me, take Sambhaji Bhide into the custody too,” she informed.
Abraham further informed that there was an FIR filed against eight workers who were on a contract with Reliance after they attended Elgar Parishad in Pune and they were the first to be arrested under UAPA. This was done to divert attention from the real culprits who incited violence in Bhima-Koregaon case, she added.
Speaking on the letter found earlier about plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders, Abraham said that there has been no mention of this letter in the court. Every day they are generating new letters but none has reached the court yet, she added claiming that the letter is fake.
Announcing the current scenario an “undeclared emergency” and arrests as “state terrorism”, Justice Patil informed that a report submitted by Shodhan committee has blamed Bhide and Ekbote for Bhima-Koregaon Violence but the government is not ready to accept it.
Ignoring the report, the government is targeting the organisers of Elgar Parishad who had nothing to do with inciting violence. Instead, the government is trying to save Ekbote and Sambhaji,” claimed Retired Justice B.G. Patil.
Of the five arrested, Arun Ferreira and Sudha Bharadwaj – both lawyers by profession – fight cases for the marginalised community. Ferreira was handling the case registered on eight contract workers. The lawyers who are defending the marginalised are being targeted, the panel said.
However, Supreme Court heard a plea and observed that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy” and issued a notice to Maharashtra government directing the arrested activists to be put under house arrests until their next hearing which is on September 6. The activists won’t be going to jail or in police custody.
The plea was filed by Romila Thapar, Devaki Jain, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande and Maja Daruwala on behalf of the arrested activists. Reacting to this, Human Rights lawyer Mihir Desai said that this is a slap in the face of the government.